Friday, December 19, 2008

"Pulitzer and Hearst, they think we're nothing! Are we nothing? No!"

Well, the high schoolers are in strike. Striking is the national sport of France. I don't mind it as long as it doesn't affect my travel plans... but it has all of this week and it canceled a much-anticipated trip to Paris in November, so I guess I should just get used to it.

I'm so nervous about things going wrong this weekend in the coming-home process that I feel sick! What if I get to the airport too late, what if all of the transportation workers are on strike, what if, what if, what if.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Well, finals week begins. I have grammar tomorrow, and I'm terrified! La grammaire, je ne l'aime pas :(. It is funny, though, when you go into a bakery and confuse the gender of whatever it is you want to buy.

"Je voudrais un eclair, s'il vous plait."
"Un eclair? Euhh, une eclaire?"

When I get this sort of response I only assume it means that there is something out there that is "un eclair" or "un galette" or "une beignet." I mean, if I say, no, I don't want une eclaire, but rather, un eclair, do they come out with something else? A small animal, perhaps? I guess I'll just have to try it sometime...

Friday, December 12, 2008

I learned how to make crepes!

Last Sunday my friend Mathilde picked me up from my dorm and we drove to her house in Courseulles-sur-mer, which is a cute little town by the sea. It was a great day. It's fun to ride in a car, for one thing! I never thought that I'd miss that because I'm not a huge fan of driving most of the time.

We went to the beach where we saw some WWII memorial trucs* (like on almost all of the beaches around here, as one would expect). We walked around her village for a bit and then schlumped on her couch at home, using REAL internet and swapping music. Then, we made good old American chocolate chip cookies, for which Mathilde chopped up some nice dark chocolate. The first batch was pretty good, but I think I added something to the second that made them turn out extremely flat and weird.

For dinner, Mathilde taught me how to make crepes. They were very easy to make, and of course having a good teacher helped! I put ham and Camembert in mine for dinner, and then had a chocolate crepe for dessert. Her father treats himself to raw oysters with a dressing of shallots and red wine vinegar every Sunday, and he let me try a couple of those. This is me schlurping one up!

It was so much fun. Mathilde and her family are very sweet, and it's always nice to get away from the old Tilleuls dorm room!

*French for "thingamajig."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A List For My Parents

And for all of the people who intend to cook me food over winter break. This is what I have been wanting since September 7, 2008:

--Homemade macaroni & cheese
--Kraft macaroni & cheese
--Homemade chocolate chip cookies
--Chocolate chip cheesecake
--Mexican food (enchiladas, fajitas, tacos, etc, etc, etc, with all the fixin's)
--Pancakes and/or waffles
--Bacon and eggs
--Biscuits & gravy
--Chicken fried chicken
--A full Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
--Thanksgiving leftovers
--A pumpkin milkshake from Graeter's (this will be difficult since I won't be going to Kentucky!)
--Ale-8-1 (also difficult for the same reason!)
--Jayna's apple cake
--CHICKEN! You wouldn't believe how rare it is to eat chicken here.
--No-bake cookies
--Peanut butter and crackers
--Spinach dip (I miss you, H-Butt!)
--CEREAL AND MILK! Oh, how I have missed thee! I want Cranberry Crunch, Captain Crunch, and whatever other Crunches are lying around.
--Blue cheese steak
--Toasted things, like toast, Pop-Tarts, and bagels

And maybe a treadmill, because I will need one to work all of that off...

I love you, family! Even if I wasn't able to eat a single one of those things in the United States I would still be just as excited to see you in seventeen days!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving in Caen

Yesterday the twin cities committee between Caen, France and Nashville, TN hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for any American students who wanted to come. It was a catered event, fancier than I had expected, but so is everything I encounter here!
The menu was as follows:
--Hors d'oeuvres
--Pastilla filled with vegetables and perhaps fish
--Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes (excellent and American tasting, but they forgot the part where you serve the mashed potatoes in a gallon-sized bucket)
--Cheese/salad plate
--Creme brulee

Yum, yum, yum! At each table was two or three of the seventeen Americans who came, and ten or so French people. Most of the people in the room were able to speak English, but we spoke French as much as possible. I sat across from a girl who is about my age, named Mathilde. She and her mother were so, so sweet, then again, so was everyone there. I am so glad I went! I was surprised at the number of Americans who weren't students who were there. I know there was at least five. I sat next to a woman from Chicago who married a French man and has lived here for 38 years. Wow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Click the pic for the full image



In the United States, if one wants to buy fruits or vegetables, one goes into Kroger and buys the exact quantity of whatever produce they want, takes it to the cashier or to the self-checkout computer, and leaves. If someone buys one apple or a bushel, no one usually says anything, although if one buys one lettuce leaf he might get weird looks or a comment. The point being is that no one is really involved in your grocery buying process. No one criticizes it or is concerned with it except for you and whomever you are with.

Not so in France! Here, the seller and the customers in the store are likely to be very curious about what you are buying, especially if they don't think that what you are buying is what they think you should be buying. The fruit seller will often ask me what I am going to use the produce for, which is nice, because then he picks out whatever is best for my purposes. I appreciate that very much. He or she (they are husband and wife) always picks the best and the ripest fruit, whereas at Kroger I am all alone in this endeavor.

But sometimes, the questioning gets a little nosy and sometimes frustrating, simply because I do not have the vocabulary to deal with it, and I am wondering if they are asking me so many questions because I have done something offensive! For example, the other day, I went to buy some spinach and tomatoes to put over a pasta dish. I knew exactly how much of everything I wanted. I asked the fruit seller for just a little bit of spinach, so she pulled out an amount and I said that it was fine. Apparently, she thought I needed more, because she said, "You know that it shrinks when you cook it, right?" And I said, yes, of course. "So don't you want more?" I said no, that was enough.

Then the other customers started getting involved. There was one lady in particular who began rapidly explaining what happens to spinach when it is cooked (and they didn't even know I wanted to cook it!). She waved her hands and made noises, trying to get her point across. I told them that I know, but that it was for a recipe, and that I don't have a refrigerator in which to preserve spinach so I just have to buy it in small quantities! They replied that it didn't matter, spinach shrinks when it is cooked, so I should buy more.

Finally I made it to the cash register with exactly the amount of spinach that I wanted, two tomatoes, and a red pepper. And ran as quickly as I could from that place!

We come across this sort of thing a lot. I think sometimes people think that because we're Americans, we don't know what we're doing. Okay, to be fair, that is probably true half the time. But when it comes to things that we have in America, like fruits and vegetables, I'm pretty confident! I guess in America there are so many people who do things in so many bizarre ways that we don't even think to ask why someone would want a small quantity of spinach, or why Kylie leaves her face makeup on when going tanning, or why we don't change out of hoodies and t-shirts to go shopping. I guess for people who have been to Waffle House or Wal-Mart past a certain time of day, nothing is going to seem odd.

I've never been to New York City, but I read an article once that said that the people are rude to others there because they are treating them like family. Family members don't let family members cut in line or take too long in the bathroom, they are curious about what others in their family are doing, etc. I think it might be the same way in France. They are just more involved in the lives of other people. Sometimes that can be frustrating because it's not something I have ever experienced or that I understand very well, but in other ways I really like it. It makes you feel more involved in the community and that you're not just a little phantom that floats into the grocery store and floats out unnoticed. Sometimes it is a little intimidating to think about going shopping for anything because I never know what sort of criticism I'll face, but when in France, one's gotta suck it up!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! There's so much that I'm thankful for today. Eat lots of pumpkin pie for me!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas time is here!

I'm so glad that it doesn't get too terribly cold in Normandie. We're close to the sea and so temperatures rarely get below 40F, which isn't terribly cold compared to Kentucky and Kansas winters. On Saturday I went to the Christmas Market with Emilie and Courtney. It's so, so cute. I will be taking pictures of it soon. Each little booth is designed to look like a chalet. I sampled hot spiced wine, which was delicious and comforting. Yum, yum, yum. I looked at some recipes online and it doesn't seem to be too difficult to make, so I suggest you all give it a shot! There were pralines, chestnuts roasting on open fires, Belgian waffles, crepes, tartiflette (what people in the mountains eat to get fat for the winter, so it's gotta be good, right?), candied apples... It was Heaven. The booths with the gifts were a little pricey but I might see if I can pick up a gift or two for friends.

Emilie suggested going to Paris with me the weekend I have to go back home so that she can help me with my luggage--how sweet is that? She's so adorable. I think her mother will come, too, because her mother hasn't ever really been to Paris. I didn't know it was possible for French people to go that long without ever really seeing Paris--it's only two hours by car or train! I will be glad to have her along, of course. She sounds so sweet. I am also very excited to see Paris at Christmas time-- ice skating in front of the Hotel de Ville, a giant Christmas tree outside of Notre Dame... it will be gorgeous. Ice-skating in Caen begins December 13. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Yesterday, I did laundry for the first time since coming here. Previously I had handwashed everything, but it was getting ridiculous and so I asked my French friend to show me how the lavomatiques work and we split the laundry bill. We planned next weekend's trip to Paris while we were waiting for our laundry to get done! I'm so excited to see Paris with a French girl who has never been.

Then, I met Erin and her student exchange group at the hotel. She and two of her friends and I went to my favorite galetterie, Carambole, for dinner. We had delicious galettes for dinner and for dessert we had Martiniquaise crepes, which are filled with chocolate and coconut, topped with coconut ice cream, drowned in rum, and then set on fire. Does it get much better? Actually, it does, because I actually prefer the Martiniquaise without the rum, but who can resist the fire?

And THEN somehow Erin ended up in a hotel room by herself and so she asked me to spend the night with her! It was so awesome to be able to sleep in a comfortable bed and use the internet while sitting on it! The internet was pretty sucky at the hotel, and it didn't really matter that I had it because absolutely no one was online, but I appreciated it anyway. It's so nice to use the internet when one doesn't have to sit outside on concrete in the cold Normandie mist, like I'm doing now, or inside on a cold tile floor, like I do on weekdays. We watched 30 Rock and The Office and took lots of pictures of our poshest sleepover ever. I even got free breakfast out of the deal, and here, free anything is currently 22% cooler than free anything in the United States!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't take this as whining!

There are just a few things I wish were different about my experience here in Caen. Overall, I can't tell you what a wonderful experience it has been so far. The semester ends in a little over a month, and I think that if that was going to be the end of my stay here I'd be very, very upset. I'm so grateful that I get six weeks to spend with my family in Kansas (even longer than I'd get if I was going to UK!), but I know I'll be happy to return! It's not perfect, though. . . but I guess if it was, I'd never be able to come back home.

Firstly, I'll just say that the whole not-having-internet-in-my-room thing is a pretty big inconvenience. Because the internet shuts off at 8:00 PM (about 1:00 PM central) it's a very rare occasion that I get to Skype or chat with any of my friends in the United States at a time that is convenient for them, and even if I do, there's no privacy. The internet also just doesn't work very well, so Skype calls get dropped so often that it's hardly even worth it to try!

Secondly, and this is more important-- it's really difficult to meet French people who will actually speak French to you. I don't feel like my conversational French has improved much at all. I think this could be greatly improved if the dorms had a common room-- some place where students can gather (without having to ask the front desk for a key) to watch TV, eat, or just sit and read. There is a campus bar/coffee shop that's pretty nice, but I usually only meet Germans there! They're hilarious, though-- they speak in a 50-50 mix of French and English. Fortunately, I know both of those languages well enough to understand! I'm worried about next semester because after level B1, there is a lack of conversation in the classroom.

Thirdly, and this is the least important, is that I miss the coffee shop atmosphere that so many college students cherish. I miss sinking into a comfy chair at Starbuck's, Coffee Times, or Common Grounds and reading, doing homework, or enjoying a Pumpkin Chai Latte with a good friend. There are a lot of coffee shops here, but they don't have that relaxed, living room atmosphere. When I come home I'll be complaining about America's lack of kebab stands and galleteries, so I had better enjoy those now and not think too much about squishy couches and Pumpkin Chai!

Well, now to eat some Serpentini with Basil Pesto! I had better stop eating that pesto soon before I get sick of it (remember the Great Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuits with Cheddar Cheese Cubes fiasco of 2007, Heidi?), but it's so darn delicious!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Deauville, France: Too chic for this chick!

I had received an invitation from my Deauville grandparents to go stay with them from Saturday to Sunday. On Saturday night we were to go to a party where I would meet members of the Jumelage de Deauville (twinning committee between Lexington and Deauville), and on Sunday we'd have breakfast and dinner together. The little party ended up being a big shabang with about 1000 people in attendance, complete with a band and a dance and an enormous meal! It was a party for many of Deauville and Trouville's clubs (like the Jumelage). Even the mayor was there.

The dinner was fabulous. We had appetizers, a salmon salad, duck, potatoes au gratin, winter veggies, a cheese plate, and a dessert plate with three different kinds of apple desserts. I sat next to Philippe Behuet, the president of the Jumelage. He and his wife are extremely friendly and charming. M. Behuet kept me entertained by telling me about the things he loves about America, which include: Cinnamon Pop-Tarts, Cracker Barrel at 6:00 AM, Wal-Mart late at night, and White Castle. I was so glad to have finally met M. Behuet after having pestered him all summer about details about my trip here.

I had a large French breakfast at the Lioults this morning. I think that because of our language barrier I communicated to them that I wanted way more food than I actually did. They had me carbo-loaded and stuffed with toast, some other sort of bread, a croissant, marmalade, and a soft-boiled egg for which I summoned all of my training from watching Wooster & Jeeves in order to eat properly. After that M. Lioult and I went on a small tour of Deauville in which we saw the beach, the Hotel de Deauville (where the celebrities stay), the casino, and the Sunday market.

For lunch we drove to Honfleur, a beautiful city with the oldest wooden church in the world and a lovely port. We ate at a restaurant that apparently Queen Elizabeth II had visited at one point, according to a plaque on the wall! I had mussels and lamb with chocolate fondant for dessert. We also visited a place above the city with a mariner's chapel.

And now I'm back in little old Caen!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No autographs, please.

I was in the French newspaper Ouest-France today being interviewed about the election. If you want, I can send you a PDF!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Another day, another destiny

If you like Les Miserables:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Paris, I louvre you.

Boy, I was so worried I wouldn't be able to come up with a relevant Paris pun, but I did!

When we arrived in Paris a soft rain was falling, just as Audrey Hepburn said it should.

Yesterday, Erica and I went to Sacre Coeur and then had caramel crepes with caramel ice-cream on top while we sat in a cafe that had a beautiful view of it. I will never go to that cafe again as it was very touristy and overpriced. I mean, all places in Paris are touristy and overpriced, but my hot chocolate was watery and disappointing. The crepes were good, though. We then went to the Champs-Elysee. When we ascended the metro stairs to the famous street, the Arc de Triomphe hit us in the face. It's so amazing--pictures never do it justice! It's beautiful and much more impressive than I had imagined it would be. That was the first of many "WOW" moments throughout the day.

We walked along the Champs-Elysee for a bit and then took the metro (which is SO easy to use) to the Louvre. My heart was thumping madly as each time I turned around I saw something famous. Antonio Canova's Eros & Psyche, Winged Victory (I nearly cried). . . once I just happened to turn my head and there was the Mona Lisa, and when a few minutes later I found myself facing The Coronation of Empress Josephine (which is huge), I said to the Louvre, "Okay, now you're just bragging." No one place should be allowed to hold that many treasures!

After the Louvre we saw Notre Dame. Third Notre Dame I've seen in France, but of course this was the Notre Dame, where the pope was not too long ago (SO jealous of Erin for getting to see him on a megatron screen!). Erica and I then went to the train station to pick up Kylie, then rested in our hostel for awhile, then met Erin for dinner in Montmartre. The waiter didn't speak French or English. It was a strange restaurant, but it was pretty good. I tried escargot for the first and definitely NOT the last time-- anything covered in that much garlic, butter, and basil is going to be delicious. They weren't served in the shells, which was disappointing, but they were served in a cute little skillet.

We were going to see the catacombs after dinner, but we couldn't find them! Ah well, perhaps today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Suzanne's Cooking Challenge!

My cooking resources include:

--A kitchen sink
--Two burners
--A large saucepan (large enough to make a full box of pasta in)
--A colander
--A wooden spoon, forks, spoons, butter knives, and a steak knife

And that's all. No microwave, refrigerator, or oven. I have been eating pasta with pesto mixed in for the last week, and I'm not tired of it yet (it's actually quite delicious!) but I don't want to get tired of it, so I need other ideas! They'd probably have to be vegetarian dishes because I do not have a way of storing meat. Cheese and eggs are okay. Milk probably isn't, but I'd try. No peanut butter unless you intend to send me a jar or two (it's about $6 for a tiny jar). I can buy another pot or pan if necessary. Desserts appreciated. The fewer ingredients and the less preparation time the better. Contestant with the best recipe wins a prize. Anyone who submits a recipe with Nutella wins a prize. E-mail all recipes to Ready, set, go!

Monday, October 27, 2008

This was written on Sunday.

There was a crazy time change today (Sunday)! I had completely forgotten that France had started doing that. Emilie sent me a text message to remind me but I didn’t get it until I had already gotten dressed and headed out the door for lunch at 10:30 AM… I thought it was 11:30 because the time changed automatically on my computer but not on my French cell phone, and I trusted the thing actually purchased in France. Silly me!

I spent part of the day wandering around the open market, and part wandering around parts of the Chateau Ducal that I had not yet seen. There are a few staircases that wind down from the top of the castle walls that are barred off, probably because descending down them would be treacherous… but I still want to know where they used to go! I also visited the sculpture garden by the castle which is reminiscent of the White Witch’s garden in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I found a good reading spot on the lawn amongst some lovely trees where I sat and read Harry Potter à l’ecole des sorciers. In case you were wondering, Hogwarts translates into Poudlard. Not quite sure why…

After coming back from the chateau I found my friends at the dorm, and they were all in a frenzy, trying to figure out what time it was. We were all so terribly confused that I sent Emilie a text message to ask her to tell me for the second time that day. They do the time change thing to save on energy, which I think is interesting. Gas and electricity must be much more expensive here than I thought. Things we wouldn’t even think about, like toasters and hot water boilers, make their bills go up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Macbook for the win!

I feel very sorry for the Windows Vista users here on campus, because they just did something to the internet here to make it work even less, and now in certain areas Windows Vista users aren't able to have access. Boo, that stinks. I'm glad I opted for the Macbook this summer when my Dell crashed!

E-mail Update

Dear friends and family,

I told you that I would update you a few weeks ago, and so finally here I am! In case you were wondering, my fractured nose is healing nicely. Right now it sports a tiny bump and a couple of scars, but it's not too noticeable. Other than tracking the recovery of my sniffer, I have been enjoying la vie française!

Since I last e-mailed you, I've been on some excursions, my favorite so far being in Bayeux. It's absolutely one of the most charming towns I have ever seen, and if you're ever in Normandie, make sure you spend part of a day there. I think we'll go back for Thanksgiving to eat at the restaurant we went to—best food we've had in France so far! Next week I'll be going to Paris for the first time, and I'm so excited! We'll be visiting Pere Lachaise on Halloween—spooky. In two weeks we'll have some days off of school and I will be staying with my host grandparents in Deauville for a party for students involved with the Twin Cities organization. I'm here on scholarship because Lexington is Deauville's sister city.

Caen is treating me as well as the places I've been visiting. The classes are challenging and the professors are so sweet and patient. Though my kitchen contains only two burners and a sink, I've been managing to find things in the store that do not require refrigeration, microwaving, baking, or any more utensils than a pot and a spoon, that actually aren't bad! My favorite of my meals is pasta with basil pesto. I'm aware that pesto needs to be refrigerated, but part of the challenge of cooking here is lowering one's standards for what needs to be kept cold…

Despite the fact that Caen isn't a very big city, there's a lot to do. Last Friday I went with two French friends, Emilie and Marie, to go see the opera of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was in English with French subtitles. I enjoyed it very much, as did the other two girls. I think I'll be seeing Le Mariage de Figaro in Paris next month. It makes being away from my voice lessons and voice teacher at UK so, so difficult.

That's all for now! Thank you so much for your e-mails, prayers, Skypes, phone calls, and your letters. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to hear from people I love, especially because some Americans have a Crazy Switch flipped in their brains once their feet hit European ground (but let's not go there)! All of my mail is put on my wall to add some color to my room. I really, really appreciate it.

Á bientôt!

Suzanne Emmert

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Erica, Courtney, and I went to Cherbourg yesterday. Compared to the rest of the places we've been to it was nothing special, just a cute town along the English Channel. We got there at lunch time after a train ride of lovely countryside scenery and ate by the port, then wandered around for a few hours. We stopped by a lovely, dark Cathedral and a basilica. The picture in this post is of a statue above an altar at the basilica-- isn't it gorgeous and eerie?

On Friday night Emilie Roussel called me and we went with a girl named Marie to see the opera of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in English, with French subtitles. The French subtitles turned out to be beneficial for me! I think it was my first time seeing an opera, and I wasn't disappointed. It was very interesting! The music was written in the mid 20th century which isn't exactly to my taste but I still very much enjoyed it, the voices of the singers, the light-up costumes, and the creative scenery!

To be honest, this has kind of been a down week. I just miss a lot of things. I miss my family and friends, obviously. I miss singing so much. So, so much. I can't even sing in my own room without disturbing a neighbor! I miss my books, because I have run out of things to read in English and reading in French is fun, but not relaxing. I miss having the internet in my room--right now I have to go to a restaurant and spend money to use it, or sit outside of a building at school, and it's always very slow and limited. I miss washing machines, dryers, microwaves, refrigerators, and ovens! I've been cooking, though, by which I mean I've been making pasta and mixing delicious basil pesto in it!

I guess I'm bound to have my down weeks! It's often so inconvenient and expensive to live here. But next week, on Halloween, my friends and I will be in Paris, and I will have another huge reminder that everything I have to put up with is very insignificant!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'd Bayeux Love!

Fromage du jour: Camembert, which I’m developing a taste for even though it tastes like grass.

Yesterday morning Kylie, Courtney, Erica, and I hopped on a train to Bayeux, which is about a fifteen minute, 8 Euro round-trip ride from Caen. Bayeux is famous for the Bayeux Tapestry, which is a looooong tapestry that tells the story of William the Conqueror. I listened to the French version of the audio guide and was pleased to find that I could follow the story quite well! Blood, gore, etc, etc. It was a fascinating panorama—well worth the visit.

Afterward we went to a café I can’t remember the name of at the moment and I had the best meal I’ve had since coming to France. Grilled turkey with Camembert sauce, sweet potato fries, grilled zucchini, and potatoes au gratin. I thought I had died in food Heaven. We met some Americans who were spending the month in Normandy (there were lots of Americans and Brits about), and they took a picture for us.

Then we visited the Notre Dame cathedral of Bayeux which was the most beautiful cathedral I’ve seen so far. The stained glass was exquisite. We visited the crypt beneath the sanctuary, which, though small, still managed to be very creepy! I don’t know how I’ll manage the catacombs of Paris should I see them this year.

After window shopping and tea at an adorable tea room (where I also ate a raspberry tartelette for my good friend Dorothy Brown!), we decided to head back to Caen. The internet is now shut off on campus on the weekends, so we plopped down with our laptops at the good old McDonald’s. Talking to multiple family members and friends via Skype and other forms of instant internet communication was the perfect ending for such a nice day.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Perfect ending to a rough week!

Fromage du jour: Does ice-cream count as a cheese?

Yesterday I felt woozy all day long, and so I took the entire afternoon to sleep. I gave Kylie some money to buy me a dinner because walking put too much pressure on my head—isn’t that pathetic? Who knew that a broken nose and a bump on the head would make walking difficult? I had a delicious dinner of kebab sandwich, Coca Cola, and no preservative, no artificial flavors Twix bars. Oh, mama, it was delicious. I spent the evening alone in my room, just resting off the week by napping and watching House and the season premier of Pushing Daisies. I felt bad that I didn’t feel well enough to go out with my friends (the Chinese waitress, Karen, at our favorite restaurant asked where I was!), but it was exactly what I needed. Today I woke up to the Calvados I love and have been missing during this cold, stormy week: it was warm, sunny, and I felt great!

We had kebab sandwiches for lunch and then Courtney and I went shopping (Kylie and Erica were too sleepy). I found a beret, a sweater, and a skirt at H&M and a much-needed pillow from Eurodif. Eurodif is one of the most amazing stores! It’s a home decorating store with clothing and accessories as well. They have a small selection of yarn that reminded me that I need to attempt knitting again.

Courtney and I swung by the dorm and took Kylie and Erica along to our favorite patisserie (raspberry donut* for me!), and then to Marche Plus (formerly 8 a Huit) for. . .

Cereal and milk.

That’s right. We bought Frosted Flakes and cold milk. Milk in France doesn’t taste good at all, but we couldn’t tell when it was poured over the cereal, and so we had the best afternoon snack! I can’t even tell you how much I’ve missed cereal! Our kitchen doesn’t have a fridge and so we can’t store milk, but I guess we figured that if we all had milk and cereal for dinner we could drink it before it needed refrigeration.

So, how could it not be a good day? The cuts on my nose are healing nicely, I had a great shopping trip, and now I’m at McDonald’s for some WIFI. Let me tell you, I will not take Super Value Menus or WIFI for granted ever, EVER again!

*Forget all you knew about donuts, and pastries in general, if you ever come to France. They’re otherworldly here. How will I ever be able to leave?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't worry, kids!

I'm fine!

Some of you may have heard that I got to experience French healthcare first hand! It's true, it's true. My friend, Erin Risch, whom some of you may know, is studying in Paris currently and she came to stay with me. On her last night here, I took some NyQuil to alleviate the symptoms of a cold that was hindering my sleep. Something, whether it was a lack of enough sleep or something else, reacted badly with the NyQuil and when we woke up in the morning I fainted. As I fainted I hit my nose on the edge of my bed, then hit the floor. While I was unconscious, Erin used the emergency phone on my dorm floor and then knocked on the doors of my friends. Very soon firemen came and took me to the hospital.

I'll spare you a lot of the detail, but I will say that a lot of nausea and dizzyness was involved, plus a bit of a headache! They took an X-Ray and found that I had broken my nose, just slightly. I was surprised to find this out because it didn't hurt that badly, and it wasn't very swollen. After I had been on an IV for about ten minutes I felt perfectly fine and ready to go home, but the nurses and doctors would have none of that. They told me that I had to stay the night, just to be on the safe side. Everyone was very, very sweet, and apologized for their broken English (which was silly, as it was I who needed to be apologizing for my broken French!). My friends were so good to me. Erin called a lot to make sure I didn't need her to come back to Caen and stay with me, and I told her that I had to stay at the hospital overnight so she couldn't. Erica stayed at the hospital with me for hours, and later Emilie (French friend) and Courtney (American) came to visit with a goody bag of magazines, Jane Eyre (which I read most of during my stay), a brush, mirror, apples, and chocolate.

My roommate was a woman named Valerie whose husband stayed with her as much as he could. I noticed her looking at my chocolate earlier in the day and when her husband left I offered her some, and she took it. Today I think she became overwhelmed with her condition (which I think has to do with depression-- I think she OD'd on some medication), and her husband wasn't in the room so she sat on my bed and held my hand for a long time. We talked, and I told her that I was a Christian and would pray for her. She closed her eyes and nodded, and I held her hand some more. Later, her husband came in and gave me a gift of fine, dark chocolate, for which I was grateful! Later, she had to be moved to a different room, and when she said good-bye she cried and hugged me so tightly and kissed my cheeks.

I'm not going to say that it wasn't a hassle going through all of this. I feel awful for how badly I scared my friends, and I hated being hooked up to an IV for so long! But you know, if I went through it all to give a sad woman a piece of chocolate and a hug, it was all worth it! Please keep me and the rest of Caen in your prayers. It's been a rough couple of days!

In a few days I'll send another update about the rest of my life in Caen. It's an amazing place, and every day I wake up so excited that I get to spend another day here. I miss my friends in the United States very dearly, but I'm so grateful for the experiences I get to have in France! The city, my classes, and my friends are all wonderful.

Monday, September 22, 2008


France is so interesting. I feel like life is so laid-back and charming. People spend all of their time outside reading, biking, shopping, dancing, and napping on the lawn of the castle. We can't figure out when our favorite pastry shop opens and closes, but I have a theory that it goes something like this:

When the planets are aligned in just the right way and the breeze is light, the store opens. By the time a cat has walked by the front door three times, the store closes. When the direction of the wind changes, the store opens again, then closes when the cat walks by three times, then opens again when the planets realign themselves properly, and the cycle continues. The French seem to understand this delicate harmony between pastry and galaxy, but it's a secret we hungry Americans who want nothing more than a strawberry tartelette have yet to discover.

I like France a lot, and this makes me wonder why they are so fascinated with America. They really are. Many people we talk to in restaurants and all over talk about how much they want to live in New York City (Karen, our waitress at the Chinese restaurant, wants to live in Manhattan), and how much they love our culture: apparently our movies, music, and tv shows make up for the fact that they think we're lazy and fat. A few have said that they just feel like Americans are more free. I wonder if that's because we really are, or if it's because that's what we keep telling everyone? Apparently there must be something to it because the French people I know in America feel that they have more freedoms. I need to do more investigations on this!

I guess one thing people have said is that they are fascinated that a black man can run for president and a woman can run for vice president. That's still unheard of in parts of Western Europe, and I think it's just something I've been taking for granted.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Classes & Open Market

Fromage du jour: Chevre. Yes, France, go ahead and correct me when I mispronounce the name of a Monseiur Seguin crepe and then turn around and pronounce a Jose crepe “Jo-suh”.

This weekend has been so lovely, which is great, because we received our class schedules. Nineteen hours of class each week isn’t so bad, I suppose, because I will not have a job. Here’s my class list:
• Comprehension and Expression—writing/grammar (4 hrs/week)
• Corrective Phonetics (2 hrs/week)
• France History & Culture (3 hrs/week)
• Comprehension and Expression—oral (3 hrs/week)
• Language and Literature (3 hrs/week)
• Writing & Oral Expression Workshop (3 hrs/week)
• Phonetics & Phronologie (1 hr/week)

One thing that is very different about French class schedules is that the classes meet at different times in different rooms each time they meet, and one day the class may be scheduled to last for an hour, while another day it may be scheduled to last for two. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, I have two classes, which is nice. On Thursday I have three classes and on Wednesday I have four. Wednesdays are going to be loooong days for me! Class begins at 8:20 and I don’t get out until 5:10. There’s a one hour break in there somewhere.

Also, to answer a question many people have been asking, every word in every class will be French. Even when we’re asked what a certain word means we have to respond with a synonym in French. That’s the only common language between the students since we all come from different countries!

Enough about class! On Friday we went on a boat ride with the rest of the foreign students. It was free because it ended up being an advertisement for a local bank. They had representatives trying to get us to sign up for various deals the whole time. We made up for it by going to our favorite Chinese restaurant where we finished off a delicious meal with huge bowls of ice-cream. Yesterday we went downtown and had amazing goat cheese crepes. I also went to Carrefour to buy a hotpot, tea, and other things. The hotpot blows a fuse every time I use it in my room, but not in Erica’s room. I nearly cried! I’ll have the maintenance man look at that tomorrow.

Today is Sunday, and that means Open Market at the Port! Ooh, I am still so excited about it. I bought a beautiful winter coat for 35 Euro. It’s not exactly the coat I want, but it’s fairly close, and for that price I couldn’t pass it up. Plus, it’d make me look like a spy if I only had a fedora. I didn’t want to spend too much on one because when I go home for Christmas I can get the one I bought last year. The coat I really want is probably well over 200 Euro anyway! We wandered around for a long time, bought crepes, and went home for lunch where I am now. Open Market days are going to be my favorite, I can tell. There’s so much to see, so much to buy, and it’s very inexpensive.

Here is my class schedule. Each color of pen represents a different class.
I took this at the open market today.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boat party

Michael stands in the front of the boat, and says that he’s king of the world within the first hour, or I give you my next paycheck. --Jim, "Booze Cruise", The Office

I live here and I'm confused as to what part of France I live in. It was finally cleared up today: I am in Lower-Normandy, in the Calvados region, in the city of Caen, which is the prefecture of Calvados. For some reason I thought Calvados meant Normandy plus some other areas, but no, it's a region of Lower-Normandy. Got it. In a month I will have my residential permit for Calvados, which will be nice to get out of the way.

Caen is a small city. Much smaller than I had initially thought. It has about half the population of Lexington in a much, much smaller space. I feel like I've seen almost all of the town, excluding the residential areas that aren't of much interest, and that makes me feel much more at home. Let me tell you, the French may be a wee bit behind on technology when it comes to internet access, but they are decades ahead of America on public transportation, even in a small city like this. It couldn't be easier to get around unless you just had a personal taxi driver.

Today the foreign students are being taken on a boat party, or, as we Office fans call it, a Booze Cruise! We're all very excited about it because we have no idea what it consists of. Hopefully pastries. I just got a loyalty card at my favorite patisserie today!

Today I was in an information session with all of the foreign students who will be staying here for the year. There were seven westerners, a handful of Ghanans, a handful of Koreans and Vietnamese*, and the rest were Chinese. Soooo many Chinese! They're the cutest and sweetest people in the world. I feel so sorry for the Asians because they struggle so much with French. The English, Spanish, and Italian speakers among us have it sooo easy. I admire them so much for being brave enough to come here, and I'm so glad they have so many others who speak their language so they won't be lonely!

I got my first postcard the other day! I felt so loved! Personal mail is like gold here. My friends were very jealous.

Hope you all are having a good day! I'm now off to bombard my parents with more e-mails about what to put in my care package.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Holiday at Sea

Kylie and I are watching a movie on her bed and vegging out. Practice classes began today. Mine was far too easy, and so I hope to be moved to a higher level. After we took a test we did an activity in which we had to converse with a small group of people and then tell the class a few interesting things about one of them. Next to me was a man named Curtis. About him I said that he was from Vermont, he loves Nutella, normal things like that. . . and then he proceeds to tell the class that I am American and I love France, but the one thing I don’t love are the lack of toilet seats here. The toilet seats! After he asks me tons of questions about why I study French and what I like to do, that’s all he can remember to say! It was part of a long conversation in which our group (Erica, Courtney, Curtis, and me) talked about the differences between France and the USA. I was so embarrassed! I wasn’t complaining about the dorms or anything, but I’m sure it looked like I was a spoiled brat American to the teacher.

Today I felt like a real French girl because I went to a bakery and cremerie to buy a baguette and Camembert for dinner for Kylie, Erica, and I (Courtney doesn’t like cheese). That and a chausson de pomme from my favorite patisserie makes a great meal, though I’ve discovered that I am not fond of Camembert.

Classes are over by lunch time and we have the rest of the day to do as we please. This is kind of a problem because right now there is no homework, and nothing to do unless we want to spend tons of money. I’ll be happy when sports begin (oh my gosh, did I just say that out loud?).

(Two days later… it’s such a hassle to update blogs when you don’t have internet!)

Yesterday my friends and I visited the Abbaye aux Hommes, which is next to the Hotel de Ville (which we did not go into). William the Conqueror’s tomb is in the church, so we went to see him, or rather, his leg, as the rest of him was dug up and destroyed during the French Revolution. The church was gorgeous, dark, eerie, and reverent. And old. I can't stop thinking about the hands that made the castles, walls, and churches hundreds of years ago!

After that Kylie, Robert, and I took a bus to the beach at Lion-sur-Mer, which is an adorable town. The beach was cold and beautiful. There were tiny cave-like structures along the cliffs that we climbed on until an old French man either told us that the rocks would fall, that we would fall, or that we were not allowed to climb them, or a combination of the three. It was too windy to hear him! We spent a couple of hours walking and talking on the beach, then went to a little cafe to have cheese and baguette while we waited for our bus.

In other news, I'm in level B-1, which is almost where I wanted to be (B-2 would have been preferable). This permits me to do many things that I wouldn't get to do in the A level, and so I'm pleased.

And in yet more news, food is exceedingly difficult to find on Sundays!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fete du Port

I have been in Caen, Normandie for about six days now. The first two were extremely rough, but I’m doing fine now. I think I am entering the “honeymoon” phase of study abroad. On Thursday and Friday we did a lot of registration sorts of things. We had to sign up for health insurance and obtain a student identity card and all sorts of things—most that we did not understand. Today we opened up our French bank accounts and signed even more papers that we did not understand. Oh well! Hopefully our new bank accounts will help us get our own wifi plans.

The town is gorgeous and clean. Walking to town involves going through the castle of William the Conqueror (Chateau de Caen, I think). The castle’s moat has long been dry and that and the rolling hills and gardens surrounding it are popular places for people to picnic and lounge with a book. Boulangeries and patisseries are everywhere. I’m rarely able to resist the temptation of citron tartelettes and pain au chocolat! Amazing food is everywhere. . . baguette sandwiches, gelato, kebabs, crepes. . . Even the cafeteria is pretty good, and McDonald’s has some pretty nice pastries as well. McDonald’s (which I only go to for the free wifi!) has four styles of hamburgers: American, Australian, British, and Canadian. We have yet to learn the difference, except that the Canadian burger has French fries on it.

Today Kylie and I went to a mall sort of place called Carfourre. There are shops and restaurants inside and a large, Wal-Mart like store. C’est tres americain! After lunch at a boulangerie we headed back to our dorm to rest and to get ready for a fete on the port. We got all dressed up, really, for no reason, because it was more like a little carnival, but getting dressed up is fun anyway. At the port children were riding a carnival ride and kayaking, and everyone else was listening to live music, eating, and shopping at the booths.

My parents called from home, My aunt and uncle called from skype, and Missy from where ever in France she happens to be. I love phone calls! I love hearing familiar, American voices. I listen to the Bob & Sheri show podcast all the time here because I listened to their show every morning when getting ready for school my senior year of high school, and even hearing their voices is comforting! As homesick as I can be, I am having a good time here and am looking forward to classes beginning.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Don't worry, everyone! The culture shock is wearing off. I've met some great people, and have eaten some great food. I didn't know those first couple of days would be so difficult, but I'm glad I know what culture shock is now. I was discussing it with Erin and before we had these experiences we were pretty sure it was a myth. She's coming to visit soon, and I can't wait. I've met several girls in my dorm, and they're wonderful. The food is so amazing. I cannot stress that enough. And cheap, too!

Here's my dorm

Go to my flickr account to see pictures of my dorm:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Suitcase Calling

After I had finished packing last night, I opened my bedroom door to go find my dog so that she could sleep on my bed. As it turns out, she had been waiting outside of my door for who knows how long. Aww. I am going to miss her so much!

I leave in a few hours. Very exciting.

Here is my address if you want to send me things such as postcards, peanut butter, Mexican food, and anything else:

Suzanne Emmert
Cité des Tilleuls / Campus 1 Chambre 216
23, Avenue de Bruxelles - BP 5153
14070 CAEN Cedex 5

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm ready to go!

Fromage du jour: Giordano's Chicago-style cheese pizza (that counts, right?)

Yesterday my father and I went to Chicago so that today I could pick up my student visa. We met a friend for lunch and in the evening went to see violin virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird concert at Millennium Park for free. Aside from some ridiculous animations, it was a good concert. He's friggin' talented! I think he did a little too much of the recording & layering at times-- it just got a little repetitive. I would love to see him again, though. Especially in Chicago, where security guards do not escort drunk girls who climb on the stage off of it-- no, they just push them. Today, we got my visa, we went to the Chicago Art Institute, and somehow made it home despite the flight delays on account of the incessant rain.

Finally getting my visa felt like climbing a set of stairs and thinking that there was one more step than there actually was. Painless, but mildly unnerving. That's it? That's all it took? I hand you these papers and $74, and I get to go to France? I've had such anxiety and so many nightmares about it-- I just knew that I would be rejected, I just knew there would be a problem with my paperwork like there was with a few of the other people I saw in the consulate! Last night I had dreams that I was rejected for the following reasons: my ethnicity, lack of exact change, lack of proof that I have a ride from the airport to the train station in Paris, and many other ridiculous things that I hope no embassy would reject you for!

At the airport I met Cobra Starship in the security line-- they're known for their Snakes on a Plane song. I knew it was them because "Cobra S" was written on everything they carried with them-- and because of my pure intuition, of course.

And then I went to a bookstore where I got into a discussion about books with a few people in the store. After that, I went to another bookstore to look for a book the previous store didn't have, and one of the guys from the previous bookstore was there. His name was Dwight. He recommended Jitterbug Perfume so highly that he said he would buy it for me if I wouldn't buy it for myself. He asked for a recommendation from me, and I told him to look at Welcome to the Monkey House by Vonnegut. While I was looking for the book I wanted, he went to checkout and on his way out of the store, pushed a book in my hand. Inside was the receipt, which showed that he had purchased the Vonnegut, and on it he had scrawled, "Hope you enjoy this! If not, return it! Stay golden, Dwight." No last name, number, or e-mail, and he didn't ask for any of my information. He must have been a benevolent librarian of some sort!

I like Chicago O'Hare! Obscure, indie bands and free books? Sounds good to me! I'll be passing through again on Sunday on my way to France. I'm nervous, and excited, and happy, and sad.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two down, one to go

Fromage du jour: Irish Cheddar

My friend, Missy, left for Normandie on Tuesday, and Erin leaves in just a few hours for Paris. Isn't it odd that my two oldest friends will both be in France this semester?

I ordered my train ticket today from It was about $80 including shipping. I guess rail travel in Europe isn't cheap (though that's certainly cheaper than traveling by train in the USA), but I've heard that you can get plane tickets for about 30 Euro. That will be nice for traveling around during my Christmas break. I hope to make it over to Berlin to visit a German friend of mine.

Awhile ago I joined the Universite de Caen Facebook group and just posted a message saying that I will be there in September. Since then about five or six of the French students have messaged me offering advice and giving me tips and encouragement. They've been so friendly and I appreciate them more than I can say! I feel like I might have a couple of built-in friends at Caen and elsewhere in France. Facebook has its vices, but I must say that it's helped me out a great deal in recent months.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Fromage du jour: Gruyere (I've been watching a little too much Pushing Daisies. Excellent show, but beware: it will make you want to hug someone.)

French word du jour: Jumelage-- Twinning. As in, Jumelage de Deauville, the Twinning Committee of Deauville. We'd call this a Sister Cities Committee.

Today I received an e-mail from Caen's "service financier" that confirmed that I am, indeed, departing on the correct date. I am more relieved than I could possibly say!

Emilie, a facebook friend from Caen (who reads this blog!), told me to go to this website to learn more about the city. It looks lovely, doesn't it? I can't wait to be there in 16 days! She, and other students from Caen, have been very helpful in making me as at ease as possible, and I'm not even there yet. I am so thankful for that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things are coming together... but keep your fingers crossed.

Fromage du jour: Warm Brie

As today two of my sisters begin their first day of school I can't help but envy the fact that all they have to do in order to get there is swing by Wal-Mart to buy their supplies and then either walk or be dropped off by my dad at the school doors. I've been preparing for my first day of school since February, and I'm still not totally prepared! But things are coming together in a solid wheel of Brie, or so I hope.

+My Dell broke, and so finally, last night, I purchased a shiny new Macbook that I hope will arrive tomorrow or Saturday. It comes with a free iPod touch, about which I am quite excited. Getting new gadgets is ridiculously fun.

+I bought two pairs of walking shoes that I hope will last me the entire year, protect me from rain, and still look stylish enough so that I won't look too garishly américaine. One is a pair of knee-high black boots (Rieker), and the other a Mary Jane-style flat (Privo).

+I bought my plane ticket, but I'm still quite nervous about that, especially since...

+The earliest appointment date at the consulate was September 4. So, my dad and I will be flying into Chicago-Midway (I think) on the afternoon of September 3, perhaps enjoying a free Andrew Bird concert at Millennium Park that evening, and after a night in which I will not be able to sleep we will arrive at the French consulate at 9:00 A.M. and hope and pray that I have everything I need in order to be accepted for a student visa. If I don't, then I probably don't get to go to France-- my plane leaves three days after that, and if I don't have a visa by then, too bad for me.

+I've been talking to a few people from Caen on Facebook, and they've been very friendly and helpful. One told me that there are weekly salsa dancing sessions on campus. That's my kind of school!

I'm so nervous about getting my visa in order and finding my way from Charles de Gaulle to Gare St. Lazare to Caen. I'm trying to remain optimistic, and in this I can use all of the help I can get. Prayers and encouragement are much needed! Phone calls are also appreciated-- during the day, everyone is at work or school, and so it can get quite lonely with just my dog around!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Plane Ticket-- Finally

Fromage du Jour: Fresh Mozzarella served with fresh basil leaves

I'm a little worried. I know that you probably feel that "Suzanne must be a little worried" vibe from most, if not all, of my entries thus far, but I think I have legitimate reasons! Someone from the Twinning Committee of Deauville, France, sent me an e-mail stating that classes begin on September 1st, but the Caen website and my acceptance letter very clearly state that while a Fall session begins September 1st, my session (Winter/Spring) begins September 11. My adviser advised that I just buy my plane ticket for the September 11 start date, and so I did. I will be leaving September 7th and arriving in Paris at 9:30 A.M. on September 8th.

Now, I'm a little nervous, because I bought the plane ticket before the Committee returned my e-mail about the date being wrong. I had to-- the prices were going up by the hundreds each day. I did get a phenomenal discount, though.

There are many websites out there that help traveling students get discounts on plane tickets, rail passes, and more. I went to First, you have to call them and ask for an international student ID card, which will run you about $28. My plane ticket was $615, which was about $300-1000 less than on any other non-student website. If you are between the ages of 12 and 26 and/or you are a full-time student, you're eligible for the International Student Identity Card ( and are therefore eligible for these discounts. Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, back to Paris... I will get there in the morning and I figure it's fairly easy to get from the airport to the train station by Metro. After that, someone will meet me in Caen and take me to my dorm. The only thing I have left to do to make this happen is get my visa in Chicago, which I've heard is an adventure in and of itself.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Culture shock.

I read the booklet that came with my acceptance letter today, and it said that not only is there not internet access in the dorms, but there are only seven hotspots on campus (as compared to UK where every spot is a wireless hotspot!), but you are permitted only two hours of free internet access per day. I've also heard that the internet on campus shuts off at 7:00 P.M., which is about the time I'd be using Skype to contact my family. What the heck, Caen?

Of course, if this is the worst thing I've heard about campus, I think so far I'm well off! It sounds like a nice school.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Fromage du Jour: The Parmesan that I put on my pasta tonight. I don't think that the form of Parmesan we usually put on pizza or pasta tastes like much, but as unnecessary as I feel it is it's just something you do to make your meal complete. Today I put a lot of unnecessary fluffy stuff in my envelope to Campus France and in the fax to the district court office...

I have finally been accepted to the Universite de Caen. I knew I would be, but I needed that slip of paper in my hand in order to send in my Campus France stuff (which I did today after obsessively checking and rechecking the envelope in which I sent it to make sure everything needed was in there), and also to get out of jury duty. I was summoned this week-- fourth time since March, baby! That's gotta be a record.

Dominic, my adviser, faxed the county clerk's office an excuse that will hopefully keep them from summoning me until August 2009. I also sent them a fax with the excuse they sent me in June, the letter they sent me yesterday, and my acceptance letter, along with a note telling them when I would be leaving for Kansas (July 31).

July 31! This means...
2 more Sundays at my church
11 more days of work. . . until June.
About two months and a day until I begin classes at Caen
15 days until I see my family, Kansas friends, and my dog, Taffy

I feel sad about the first two items. I will miss everyone in Kentucky very much.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lacking-Proficiency Test

Fromage du Jour: Cream cheese, because I am indulging in a cream cheese chocolate brownie at the amazing little Good Foods Cafe. Cream cheese is the slightly more sophisticated cheese of indulgence; the unsophisticated cheese being, of course, American, as I discussed in the last post. I will miss Good Foods, with its quirky people and biodegradable straws.

I took my French Proficiency test online. Or it may have been Greek. It was certainly Greek to me (click here and press the red button)! No, it wasn't actually that bad, but I did terribly. Just terribly. I'm not sure what score I received, but if I even scored an A1 (the levels are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2) I'll be happy. It was that bad. I hope that they were telling the truth when they said that they'll do other things to determine our level. I think the listening part really shot me-- I can't listen to spoken French worth anything, and I certainly don't know all of the vocabulary terms surrounding the subject of global warming. Although, I must say, I should, because many of my French essays have involved polar bears. Les ours blanches vont a la Floride pour leurs vacances parce que il est trop froid dans le nord!

I am thinking of buying a pair of knee-high Rieker boots. I've been told that everyone wears black leather boots in France, and a friend told me that she bought some that were waterproof for a European vacation. They were very comfortable to walk in and served her well. They are definitely out of my usual price range, but I find it easier to buy things when I tell myself that they'll be useful in France.

My friend, Dean, advised me to bring a couple of DVD's of favorite TV shows and movies with me for when I get homesick, especially since websites like are blocked outside of the USA. Hmm. I'm thinking that I'll bring the five hour BBC Pride and Prejudice, but I am not sure what else. I suppose this is the classic "If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one movie, what would it be?" question. So, if you were me, what would you take? If you just had a couple of movies to watch all year, what would they be?

Visa Anxiety

Fromage du Jour: American. When you are stressed out about visas, or really, anything, like I am today, then you eat American cheese. . . on a whole-beef patty, with special sauce, on a sesame seed bun. Or however the song goes. It's unhealthy, it's processed, it's cheap, it's American.

Hannah Stone, a study abroad veteran, empathized with me when I told her yesterday about how anxious I am about getting my visa. Right now I am just waiting to hear back from my school, and hoping and praying that they get back to me sometime before I am supposed to arrive. I think that my adviser faxed them all of my papers, and while I am astounded by and grateful for the circa 1980's technology that allows a piece of paper to travel across the world by phone in less than a minute, I really feel like things should be moving along more quickly than they are. It will take a considerable amount of time for my Campus France papers to go through, and I can't begin that process until I have everything I need from school.

Hannah said that when you visit the consulate, you drop off your papers, and then it takes a few hours to process. It's near some of the best shopping, restaurants, and parks in Chicago, as well as the Sears Tower, so finding something to do shouldn't be a problem! Although, you know they charge about $10.00 for an elevator ride to the top of the Sears Tower? Crazy! It's worth doing once, though. I learned how to waltz on the top of the Sears Tower.

I also need those papers because I have been summoned for jury duty three times since March. Twice in the past three weeks, in fact. I've been excused each time, and the moment my excuse is up, they summon me once more. I finally told the nice people at the County Clerk's office (and they really are nice, I'm not joking!) that not only did I begin a new job at a law office the day they wanted me (last Monday), but I will be out of town the entire month of August, and out of the country until May after that, then out of state until August after that, and after all of this I will have classes at UK, so. . . don't waste the postage on this girl! They told me to send them the letter of acceptance from the Universite de Caen, so hopefully after that they will stop bothering me. I'm actually interested in serving on a jury, but they just send me those letters at the most inopportune times!

As I was typing this I received an e-mail from Caen giving me the link to a proficiency test. It is about two hours long. There goes my crazy Wednesday evening! Maybe I'll reward myself with a Good Foods lemonade if I score above a B1. . .

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How to Go to France

THIS BLOG ENTRY HAS BEEN EDITED so that it is more useful to incoming students!

Just like my experience thus far with going through the mess of registering for college and applying for my visa, at least, assuming it will all be worth it in the end. In this post I will tell you the steps you need to take in getting to France, and what the Universite de Caen will tell you once you have pre-registered for their school, and tell you what you do and don't need. If the links are dead by the time you read this, I'm terribly sorry! Let me know and I will see what I can do.

Firstly, you'll need to do the following in order to set foot in the country and have it show up on your transcript that you were there:

1. Passport: Apply for your passport as soon as you possibly can.

2. UK's Stuff: Turn in the study abroad form. Most of this is fairly self-explanatory. For Academic Approval forms, see the Director of Undergraduate Studies. For the Faculty Nomination form, I asked a TA. Faculty? No, but the only faculty members I had classes with were in the math and science departments, in huge lecture halls, so needless to say I did not know them very well. My TA was quite friendly and returned my form very promptly. My letter of reference also came from a TA, and no one raised a fuss.

3. Pre-register: Pre-register on Caen's foreign student website. After you do, you will receive an e-mail that will tell you what you need in order to complete registration. I will tell you what you really need:
  • Copy of your passport-- Need
  • Copy of your last and/or higher diploma translated into French or English-- Need
  • 1 ID picture-- Need
  • 1 birth certificate translated intoFrench or English-- Need
  • Results of a TCF, TEF or DELF/DALF-- You take the test online.
  • French transcripts if you were already registered in a French institution
  • 60 euros of pre-registration fees-- This is paid for by the Twinning Committee if you're on the Caen Scholarship.
4. Campus France: Apply for Campus France. This is necessary in order to submit a Visa application. If you haven't cried yet in this whole process, this is where you'll probably start. Campus France is expensive and obnoxious, it hates you, and if it doesn't demand your first born in order to complete the application process, consider yourself a very, very lucky person. Read this before applying.

5. Ticket: Purchase your plane ticket as soon as you know when you're supposed to arrive in France. There are many student discount websites for plane tickets, like

6. Copies: Make. Copies. Of. Everything. Of flight itineraries, of every single application, every form you fill out (especially your academic approval form), your birth certificate, your great-grandfather's immigration forms, your passport, and have lots of copies of your passport photo--anything to prove that you are, indeed, American and not looking for a job. Keep them all in a folder to be used when you need them, and take this folder complete with copies of everything with you to France. Maybe you should also have some copies stashed in a geocache somewhere in the Alpines, just to be sure. Also, bring lots of passport pictures. I've needed about ten since I've been here.

7. Visa: Once you have your application complete from Campus France (this can take a couple of weeks), proof that you have a scholarship/way of supporting yourself in France (obtain this as early in the process as you possibly can), the address of your dormitory, and the name and address of someone on the Twinning Committee to be a "sponsor," you have everything you need to fill out the visa form. The school will take care of sending what you need in order to fill it out. Find this here. Make an appointment and obtain your visa as soon as you can. It's unfortunately necessary that you visit the French Consulate in either Washington, D.C. or Chicago to apply for the visa in person. Convenient? No, but at least once it's done it's done. I have not yet been through this process, but those who have braved this journey before me have said that it's relatively painless, especially compared to the rest of what you had to go through to get to this point.

Chicago is about a six hour drive from Lexington, and there are cheap youth hostels to stay in if you don't know anyone there. If you can get someone to drop you off in Cincinnati, the Mega Bus runs between there and Chicago every day and you can get a bus ticket for a very low price, and arrive in Chicago in about six hours, certainly no more than seven. That's about as much time you'd spend in airports if you flew there, anyway! The Mega Bus stop is less than two miles from the French consulate, right next to the Sear's Tower and Millenium Park. I'm pretty sure there is a youth hostel around that area as well. Take a friend. Make a fourth of July weekend out of it or something.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Welcome to Fromage du jour, the blog I will be keeping to chronicle my misadventures in Caen, France. You'll also find some tips for students planning to study abroad, especially those who received the Caen Scholarship at the University of Kentucky.

Caen, not to be confused with Cannes, lies happily in Normandie near the coast of the English Channel. Of course, the French would never call it the English Channel-- they call it La Manche, or, The Handle. I will be attending the Universite de Caen. Everything I know about the university and the city at this point is on wikipedia!